Comfort My People — The solemnity of the Ascension – pondering God’s presence with us

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre

It is part of our human nature to exist as social beings. Few of us would choose to live continually cut off from all other people. 

Remember the feelings of isolation during the COVID pandemic and how we longed for the return of the normalcy of gathering with others? 

It is true that to get away from the hustle and bustle of life for a time can certainly bring us refreshment and energy. We might even, in periods of stress, think that we would permanently welcome living somewhere that provides us with no contact with other people. Most of us, however, would not want such a living situation for more than a short time.

For this reason, we tend to live in cities, towns or villages or in areas that provide some type of contact with others that live in the vicinity. In addition, living near one another usually provides us with important utilities, such as running water, electricity and other basic services. Chiefly for psychological reasons, in addition to practical reasons, we all desire to have other people gathered around us.

Even more important than just being in contact with people, we especially need to be in some kind of contact with our family and those whom we consider friends; to be in contact with those who fill out our lives in a wonderful way. If we live cut off from our family members and friends and cut off from other people, at some point we are going to have to deal with the loneliness that comes from this lack of contact. Each of us would probably begin to deeply feel the absence that such a lack of human contact would bring about within us.

In a different kind of way, the solemnity of the Ascension, celebrated in a few weeks, invites us to examine under similar circumstances our relationship with God. As we desire to be in contact with other people, we have a desire to be in contact with God. As our family members and friends are important to us, so is the Lord, and therefore we want and need all that a relationship with God provides. Chief among these needs is to be in contact with God.

After his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, to his Father and to our Father. The Ascension of Jesus ushered in the reality that each one of us who takes our faith seriously will have to deal with — the reality that can be perceived negatively as God’s absence in the world. 

In a more positive light, however, the solemnity of the Ascension invites us to remember that Jesus Christ promised to remain with us always. Thus, our task today may not be to deal with the perceived absence of God but rather to discover the many ways that our God remains present with us.

God is found in the relationships of family and friends. God is found in prayer. God is found in our actively doing good for others. God is found in our participation in the ongoing life of a church community. God is found most profoundly in the sacraments. Jesus Christ did not ascend to the Father to abandon us but to become our hope. He is not absent from the world, but his presence is found in so many ways by those who seek him out and live his love.

As we desire and need to be in relationship and in contact with others, so we need and should also desire to be in relationship and in contact with our God through the community that is the Church. God has not created us to live our lives in isolation from him, but to discover the countless ways that he is present to us in the many circumstances of our lives. 

Jesus ascended to the Father so that at the Father’s right hand we might have an intercessor in Jesus the Son. As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, may we always remember the nearness of the ascended one to each of us and live our lives in anticipation of that day when we will be joined to him forever in the life that is to come!

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